Lower School

Thematic Studies

Thematic study fosters a lifelong love of learning and the acquisition of skills in numerous content areas.

Key concepts in myriad content areas connect to the theme, and strengthen links in long term memory. Students readily associate and integrate ideas when learning in authentic contexts. Science, language arts, sociology, history, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics are presented within the theme.

Exploring the theme, students are given choices that stimulate critical thinking and reflection. Project and inquiry based learning experiences create a rich environment with multiple avenues for success. The classroom becomes a safe environment where students can take risks.

Lower School Curriculum Guide

PreK - 4th Grade


Jean Piaget, one of the finest educational writers of all time, observed that children acquire vast amounts of knowledge and skills through peer interactions. Abiqua's Pre-Kindergarten fosters peer interactions in a gentle, respectful environment that guides students while allowing them autonomy in creative play, shared group activities that develop literacy and numeracy, and daily work with specialists in a variety of courses such as music, Spanish, art and physical education, including yoga. Through these interactions, Abiqua students develop the qualities HEART skills comprise: Honor, Empathy, Accountability, Respect and Teamwork.


Abiqua kindergartenIn this child centered learning environment. students develop ideas, and listen to the ideas of others. Through writing, art, dramatic play and math activities, students demonstrate their understanding of their world.

Whole group lessons begin each day. Students also work in small center activities in math, science, social studies, reading, writing and social skills. The centers’ approach to learning allows for daily choices and addresses all learning styles and academic levels. Learning how to make effective choices is part of becoming a responsible student.

Literacy and Numeracy
Children who have a positive, interactive daily reading experience and are surrounded with a literacy rich environment will learn to read when they are developmentally ready. Frequent read-alouds encourage students to predict and re-tell stories and to respond to poetry. Direct instruction focuses skills that address different reading levels. The availability of material on a variety of different reading levels ensures that all students succeed when reading.

Students build a strong numeracy and recognize objects and develop knowledge of place value. Students take apart and rebuild numbers to develop familiarity with addition and subtraction. Students use non-standard and standard means of measurement in real-life situations. They focus on discerning patterns and studying throughout the year in a "hands-on" environment.

Science involves hands-on exploration. Students ask questions, observe answers, and present information to a group. Students observe arachnids and insects. They study botany, anatomy, climate, chemistry and magnetism through hands-on experiences and demonstrations.

Social Science
Students see themselves as world citizens and practice HEART skills in role playing and everyday interactions. They participate in a variety of school-wide community service projects and gain a sense of how they can contribute to their local and global communities.

First and Second Grade

Students join a teacher who stays with them through their two primary years of first and second grade.

Our first grade students focus on social studies as they learn about their community. They learn to see their school as a community and are guided to making decisions as individuals and as members of a group. Through reading, field trips, guest speakers, and community service projects, they begin to understand the function of a community.

In second grade, our students engage in the study of animals, focusing primarily on science. Our theme involves habitats and the environmental study of specific animals. As students experience different themes each year, the specific skills and benchmarks appropriate for their grades are integrated in their studies.

We believe that students need constant experience with writing if they are to develop writing strategies, learn to consider alternative writing techniques and mature as authors. Students create their own books, learning writing conventions (spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar and paragraphing) through frequent mini-lessons as they write for a variety of purposes and audiences.

When presenting a math concept, we integrate it into other areas of study, such as primary students graphing the number of pumpkins collected at the pumpkin patch or building a house using geometric shapes. Our math program focuses on understanding and fluency. Teachers create an inquiry environment where students explain their methods and in turn, become more fluent in that skill. Our classrooms have a wide variety of hands-on physical manipulatives, including attribute and pattern blocks, counters, geoboards, graphing grids and balances. We believe that using manipulatives provides children with the strong conceptual basis to create skills in a way that makes sense to them and include hands-on activities throughout our curriculum in all areas.

Third and Fourth Grade

For the intermediate grades, students join a multi-age grouping to explore two year-long themes.

One year’s theme is an in-depth study of habitats. Students gain an understanding of Oregon’s various habitats through field trips, experiments, and hands-on learning opportunities. When students experience living things in their environment, they begin to understand their own place in the world.

The second year’s theme analyzes how key historical events have shaped Oregon today. Students study Northwest Native American culture, the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark’s journey, and the Oregon Trail. Field trips highlighting local agriculture, government and history deepen their understanding of Oregon‘s people and places.

Reading, Writing, and Math
The intermediate reading focus is on improving comprehension and fluency. Students practice reading in literature circles using novels linked to the year’s theme. Writing is strongly linked to reading, with writing skills taught in the context of literature. Mentor texts, which can be as simple as a story book or newspaper article, serve as models for developing style, voice and fluency in their own writing. The Intermediate spelling goals focus on spelling strategies and patterns, rather than random spelling lists and tests. In math, each student is given a pre-assessment before each unit of study in order to determine their competency and place them in a math group that challenges them. Problem solving is the focus of all mathematics instruction and an integral part of all mathematical activity. Intermediate students practice specific problem-solving strategies each week using thematic story problems.